Bollywood Vamps and Vixens: Representations of the Negative Women Characters in Bollywood Films

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review


When it comes to the representation of women, Bollywood/Hindi Cinema has followed certain stereotypical norms in most of the films: woman as mother, lover, spouse, sister or woman as vamp, prostitute, and cabaret dancer. Bollywood cinema has exploited the vamp’s character in almost every film, characterising them as mean, seductive, coquette and vixenish, characterless and promiscuous. Since the lead actresses in the early Bollywood cinema were mainly shown as a virtuous and morally upright people, the vamp characters fulfilled the requirement of the eroticised, fetishised and sexualised imagery for the male gaze. In Bollywood cinema, the vamps are mainly depicted as cabaret dancers, courtesans, prostitutes and girlfriends of the villains. The depiction of the vamps in Hindi cinema has followed the archetype that was set in the 1930s and 1940s and continued until the late 1990s. Actors such as Helen, Bindu, Aruna Irani, Kalpana Iyer and Shashikala became notoriously popular, playing vamps during 1960-80s portraying an image of uninhibited, feral and licentious female and predominantly having a westernised outlook. In this chapter, I will examine the representations of the negative women characters in Bollywood films of the 21st century, and explore if their representation has changed in any way from that of the films of pre-2000s. I will examine how Bollywood films represent the duality of good and evil, virtuous and wicked. I will also analyse how the Bollywood vamp figure has been used to exploit eroticism, especially through the song and dance sequences. To conclude, I will discuss how in the 2000s the female characters in Bollywood cinema are no more represented in terms of black and white, the new age female characters operate in the grey zone, where the role of the lead actress can be actively interpreted as the merger of the classic heroine and vamp characters.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransgressive Womanhood
Subtitle of host publicationInvestigating Vamps, Witches, Whores, Serial Killers and Monsters
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781848882836
ISBN (Print)9789004374218
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • anti-heroine
  • Bollywood
  • femme fatale
  • Hindi cinema
  • item number
  • siren
  • vamp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)


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